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Computers Made Them Do It?

Computers Made Them Do It?

Posting content of a sexual nature on a social networking Web site may be a clue to the author's intent to engage in sex, according to new research. The findings of the study, led by Dr. Megan Moreno of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, are being presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies' conference in Vancouver, which concludes May 4.

"We thought if someone references sexual behavior, it might mean literally that they're engaging in sexual behavior," Moreno said. "It may [also] mean that they are engaging in more risky sexual behavior by the fact that... they're willing to talk about it in this public forum."

The team also considered whether users of Web sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace who post racy or sexually suggestive comments may simply be grandstanding.

Study participants were 85 college freshmen users of Facebook who were surveyed about their sexual experiences and risk-taking. Risk-taking was assessed by survey items including self-reported intention to use condoms or have multiple partners.

Participants who were not sexually active, but were less likely to postpone sex based on the score of their self-reports, were more likely to post inappropriate sexual material on their Facebook page. The study suggests there is an association between sexual activity online and self-reported intention to initiate intercourse.

"What we hear from parents is that they don't know when is the right time to have that discussion [about sex]," said Moreno. "I think this is exciting because as parents are becoming more aware of Facebook, if they happen to view those types of references, it could be a big clue that now's the time to have that talk."

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